Fight against “adult entertainment” on Canal Road

On February 18th, the Harrison County Planning Commission held their regular meeting and heard a petition to allow “a form of Adult Entertainment” at 18009 Tillman Road.  The subject property is 1,700 feet south of Faith Baptist Church on the corner of Canal Road and Tillman Road.

The following information was available from the Planning Commission proposed agenda posted on the Harrison County website:

Case File 1602HC018 – Other to allow the establishment a juice bar with exotic dancers in accordance to Section 305 Non-Classified Uses – Old Hwy 49– tax parcel 0610H-01-001.001 – Ronald Nance for Danielle Fayard – Supervisor District 3

Said petition was filed by Ronald Nance for Danielle Fayard requesting to add a form of Adult Entertainment in conjunction with a Juice Bar on a 0.6-acre parcel of land as identified on the site plan. Section 305 requires the Planning Commission to make a determination of the district or districts in which such use shall be permitted, either by right or on a conditional basis. The property is currently zoned as C-1 (Neighborhood Commercial) and R-2 (Medium Density Residential) District. The subject property is located at 18009 Tillman Road. The ad valorem tax parcel number is 0610H-01-001.001.

According to church members in attendance, the issue was tabled until a future meeting. The property is easily recognizable to those travelling on Canal Road and a photo of the proposed site from Google Maps is below.

18009 Tillman Rd

Site of proposed adult entertainment venue on Canal Road

Per Mississippi law, counties have authority to regulate adult entertainment. Per Section 305 of the Harrison County Zoning Ordinance, adult entertainment is a “Non-Classified Uses” and therefore requires planning commission approval:

For any use not specifically listed, the planning commission shall make a determination of the district or districts in which such use shall be permitted, either by right or on a conditional basis. Any such determination shall be based on the subject use’s similarity in nature, intensity of land use impact and general character to other uses listed in the various districts.

While the location is within District 3, all church members and residents of Harrison County need to come together and tell our Board of Supervisors and Planning Commission that such establishments are not desired anywhere in Harrison County let alone on Canal Road.  Notify your Supervisor and plan to attend future Board of Supervisors Meetings and Planning Boards.

Harrison County Board of Supervisors:

Harrison County residents can determine the district of their resident via their voter registration card or by viewing the district map.

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Judge changes title of MAEP ballot alternative

In response to a lawsuit that the legislature’s alternative to the Initiative 42 ballot measure was confusing, Hinds county Circuit Court Judge Winston Kidd selected the new title for Initiative 42-A from a list provided by the opponents of 42-A: “Should the Legislature establish and support effective public schools, but not provide a mechanism to enforce that right?”

The new title for 42-A effectively changes the intent of the alternative by stipulating public education as a right (not unlike 42). As summarized by House Democratic Leader Rep. Bobby Moak in support of renaming the alternative, “It was only about the title, because the title is [what] will appear on the ballot when voters go to vote in November.”

The original Initiative 42-A Ballot Title simply asked, “Shall the Legislature be required to provide for the establishment and support of an effective system of free public schools?” The ballot summary for Initiative 42-A remains unchanged: “This constitutional amendment is proposed as a legislative alternative measure to Initiative Measure No. 42 and would require the Legislature to provide, by general law, for the establishment, maintenance and support of an effective system of free public schools.”

The Initiative 42 Ballot Title asks, “Should the State be required to provide for the support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?” But hidden in the ballot summary which will not be on the ballot, Initiative 42 establishes public education as a fundamental right and grants authority to the chancery courts to determine and enforce adequate funding.

Currently, the state legislature determines how much to fund public schools along with other budget priorities.

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Legislature sends record education budget to Governor

If the bill passed by the House and Senate is signed by Gov. Phil Bryant, Mississippi public education will receive a record $2.52 billion in 2016. Over 4 years, education funding will increase by $285 million.

On February 18th with virtually no debate, the House unanimously passed a bill to increase the Mississippi Adequate Education Program by $109.9 million. Since both chambers’ priorities were very similar, the Senate simply passed House Bill 1536 on March 17th with a 49-2 vote.

Those promoting Initiative 42, a proposed constitution amendment to require fully funding the MAEP formula, remain unsatisfied despite the record amount.

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MAEP Initiative 42 on 2015 Ballot

By gathering enough signatures, MAEP proponents have placed Initiative 42 on the 2015 General Election ballot. Per the Secretary of State press release, “Initiative #42 seeks to amend the State Constitution to require the full funding of education and grant the Chancery Court of Hinds County the power to enforce the full funding of education with appropriate injunctive relief.”

Currently, the Mississippi State Constitution entrusts education funding to the State Legislature.  Section 201, states “The Legislature shall, by general law, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of free public schools upon such conditions and limitations as the Legislature may prescribe.”

The 2015 ballot will simply read, “Should the state be required to provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools?”

However, Initiative 42 will amend Section 201 of State Constitution to read as follows: “To protect each child’s fundamental right to educational opportunity, the State shall, provide for the establishment, maintenance and support of an adequate and efficient system of free public schools. The chancery courts of this State shall have the power to enforce this section with appropriate injunctive relief.”

MAEP is a formula adopted by the State Legislature (MS Code § 37-151-7) in 1997 to define funding levels for public education in Mississippi. Of the $6 Billion 2014 state budget, education received about $2.4 Billion.  Fully funding MAEP would require 10-15% more funding and has been fully funded twice since it’s adoption.

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Runoff election rundown

With Political Action Committees backing both sides, watch-out for misinformation and half-truths as advertisements and the media heat-up for the June 24th runoff election between Sen. Thad Cochran and state Sen. Chris McDaniel.

With McDaniel winning more of the June 3rd vote, the establishment backing Cochran is looking for some help from Democrats who sat out the June 3rd Primary.  What seemed absurd two weeks ago may have helped Cochran’s momentum.  Even gun-control advocate Michael Bloomberg gave $250,000 to Mississippi Conservatives PAC, the primary super PAC supporting Cochran’s reelection.

The polling data only fuels the debate.  One poll shows McDaniel with a 8-point lead.  Two days later, another shows a dead heat only to be refuted by second poll the same day saying McDaniel has a 12-point lead.

One opinion says Ingalls has shrunk during Cochran’s tenure while another says Cochran must remain our senator if the next ship is going to be funded.  All the while, McDaniel is under fire for wanting to shrink the federal government.

The big winners?  Newspapers and Democrat nominee Travis Childers!

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McDaniel turns tables on Cochran

Chris McDaniel attempted to focus the Republican U.S. Senate race on the real issues and differences by announcing his support for Sen. Mike Lee’s (R-UT) Conservative Reform Agenda last week.  Sen. Lee announced his conservative reform agenda last fall which focuses on welfare, education, energy, and right-to-work reforms.

At the announcement, a Thad Cochran aide attempted to derail the release by accusing McDaniel of lying.  McDaniel skillfully responded to the criticisms by calling for Cochran to debate, a proposal the Senator has refused.

The mud-slinging only increased in the wake of the announcement, a likely sign that internal polling is showing a very close race between the incumbent and challenger.

Human Events picked-up on the most recent accusations and documents the attempt to link McDaniel to the recent crimes of a deranged independent blogger despite there being no evidence of a connection.  The left-leaning blogs Daily Kos and Talking Points Memo echoed a report in the Clarion-Ledger attempting to add fuel to the unfounded charges.

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The cost of education in Mississippi

The federal government provides $800 Million of Mississippi’s $3.3 Billion education budget.  The Daily Journal asserts that “Cutting federal school funding [is] not realistic” and then challenges the reader to “Imagine what the impact would be if 25 percent of the money coming into Mississippi’s public schools suddenly disappeared.”

Challenge accepted.

With 492,586 students enrolled in public schools according to the Mississippi Department of Education, the state spends an average of $6,699 per student per year.  For comparison, annual tuition rates for some Gulf Coast private schools were sampled, albeit not scientifically.  The amounts below include tuition, registration, and other mandatory fees that could be identified on the respective institutions’ public websites:

As it turns out, private school cost is less than public school funding.  Are the buses, school lunches, superintendents, school boards, a Board of Education and State Superintendent, and annual fights over teacher pay and MAEP adding value commensurate with cost?  Probably not.  Even though private school teachers are typically paid less than their public school counterparts, private school parents still find “value” in sending their children to them.  Quality education is not so closely linked to teacher pay as the NEA, AFT, Mississippi Legislature, and others would have us believe.  But I digress.

Back to the original challenge:  What would be the impact to Mississippi schools without the federal subsidy?  Answer:  Mississippi would still have enough funding to send each student to a private school.  Less the $800 Million, the amount per student ($5,075 per year) is almost enough to send a student to any private school on the list and more than enough with multi-child or “participating member” discounts offered by every private school.  Yet The Parents’ Campaign and Better Schools, Better Jobs demand more funding to meet the levels prescribed under MAEP as if funding is one of the most critical items for improving  the quality of education.

Mississippi can do better and increased funding is not a panacea.  Washington, DC spends nearly $30,000 per student and is ranked only 0.5% ahead of Mississippi in Education Weeks’ Education Counts report!  In fact, the Cato Institute found that “this spending figure is about triple what the DC voucher program spends per pupil—and the voucher students have a much higher graduation rate and perform as well or better academically.”

Imagine this:  Parents send their children to private schools effectively sacrificing their “entitlement” to $6,699 per student while spending another +/-$5,000 per student to do so.  By “voting with their dollars,” these parents demonstrate the increased value of the private schools they send their children to.  An education voucher system would allow all Mississippians to have that same opportunity, rich or poor.  A means adjusted voucher system could even save the state money while still providing better education value to the most needy students.

While the state can’t be weaned off federal funding overnight, getting the politics, bureaucracy, and overhead of the federal government out of education would be helpful to Mississippi and our country.  Returning education to local control, local oversight, local responsibility and exposing it to competition would be even better.

Being a net taker of federal “welfare” has yet to help Mississippi.  An education system that adds value will.

Imagine that.

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